The biggest segment of teaching time wise was around the standard life cycle of organizations, and churches in particular. This pattern is familiar to the business world, as companies can go through exactly the same cycles in the North American world of changing tastes and mobility etc.
We imagined the life of a church as being like four people going on a journey. They meet, someone suggests a trip (Vision), the friends respond to the vision and agree to go (Relationship). They make a Plan (Program) for when and how to do it. One of the people knows the plan inside out, and makes sure they are implemented as strategized (Management or Maintenance). With V and R in the drivers and navigator’s seats they set out to live the dream. As they get underway, (P) the Plan (maps, strategies) takes over navigation and driving, until as they arrive at their goal, (M) aintenance is in the drivers seat and P is co-pilot. This story can be overlaid on a basic average life cycle of an organization, which looks like the chart below, where a congregation is born, grows, reaches maturity, and begins to decline.
When you think of the journey described above, Birth is also a time of Vision, of dreams, of possibilities unknown but hoped for. A church in that time usually has excitement, lots of individual engagement and involvement, as people know the goal and all want to work toward it. Over time, the vision gets ‘lost’ in the realities of maintaining the programs, so that by the time a congregation gets to late maturity, “Keeping things going” actually becomes the operating vision. Survival. That phase has a lot of burnout of leaders in it. Overlaying of the two is depicted in the next chart.
I shared how the best way for a church to avoid the decent into death is to renew the vision, hopefully at maturity and before death.